.- At a summit this past weekend in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl encouraged theologians involved in re-evangelizing formerly Christian areas to be “rooted authentically in the Good News.”
“The saving message of the Gospel finds its home in the Church,” he said at a Sept. 17 Mass that concluded the symposium on the “Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization.”
The symposium, which was held Sept. 15-17 at the Washington Court Hotel, featured several episcopal and academic speakers who reflected on how to present the Gospel in a modern university setting. The gathering was designed for non-tenured theology and religious studies professors who have received their doctorates within the last five years.
Cardinal Wuerl, who is the chairman of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee, explained that the gathering was part of an effort by the United States bishops to build up a relationship with a new generation of Catholic theologians.
In his homily, the cardinal emphasized the important role of theologians in proclaiming the Gospel to “a world that is not always prepared to hear and accept that message.”
As teachers in the classroom, he said, theology professors can identify with the sower of the seeds in the Gospel parable of Luke 8.
“For the seed to take hold, the ground has to be prepared,” he explained. “We not only sow the seed, we till the soil.”
Many people who have fallen away from the faith “lack the foundation even in the essentials of the faith,” the cardinal added.
The New Evangelization must reach out to these people, for whom “the Gospel has lost its taste, its freshness, its luster.”
Cardinal Wuerl emphasized the importance of remembering that “the New Evangelization has to be rooted authentically in the Good News.”
He encouraged the symposium participants to keep in mind the significance of “Apostolic continuity” and to turn to the living tradition of the Church when seeking to understand Scripture and present the Gospel in new ways.
“This is a new moment in the life of the Church,” he observed.
After the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl told CNA that he hoped the symposium would strengthen the participants, whose teachings and writings must be an important part of the New Evangelization.
“We are all together in the effort to spread the Gospel, whether we are bishops, theologians, teachers, or catechists,” he said.
“We all share the task of passing on the Good News, and I hope that this conference will underline how well bishops and theologians can work together in their task of the New Evangelization.”
Dr. Emily Reimer-Barry of the University of San Diego called the symposium “a wonderful opportunity to encourage one another.”
She said that she “especially appreciated the opportunity to meet other pre-tenure theologians and to hear about how they live out their vocations as teachers and theologians.”
“We are called to unity,” Dr. Reimer-Barry said. “Young theologians should be in dialogue with one another, and opportunities like this can strengthen us and strengthen the Church.”
Dr. Ronald Thomas of Belmont Abbey College said that he was “excited that significant people in the hierarchy of the Church are on the same wavelength as we are about what it will take to make Christ known to people today.”
Thomas said that the symposium left him “incredibly encouraged” to return to his classroom with a new sense of strength.
“I will continue to do what I have been doing, but with more love and reliance on the Holy Spirit, realizing that what I do is also planting seeds in the hearts of my students,” he said.